Running Past The Finish Line

With just one final exam to go [in employment law] I find myself changing things up a bit from last semester, and even from earlier in this exam period.  For many of my other exams, I was a bit more worried, felt a little more pressure, and did a lot more cramming than I’m doing for this one. Hard to say exactly why that’s the case, though I suspect it’s the result of a number of factors …

For one the class is not curved, so there’s less pressure to perform on a relative basis. In addition to that, I think a lot of the material is a bit more intuitive than some of my other courses, especially since I already have a good grasp of employment issues, so perhaps I’m hoping to rely on that a bit in order to do well.  And finally, while the content of the class is especially interesting, the day-to-day classroom dynamic this semester may have been a bit less than hoped for, though I’ll note that this dynamic is likely the result of a combination of factors (number of 1Ls in the class, number of 3Ls in the class, professor style, being second semester, bad classroom, etc) not just the professor.

More importantly however may be the fact that I’ve got a few big picture things on my mind which seem to be taking precedent over any singular class. I’ve got a few business ideas that I’m working on. I’ve got some improvements to my website in the works. I’m in the process of making some important partnerships. I have a few plans I’m trying to finalize for summer 2010. And I also have a interesting opportunities in the works for summer 2011. So for me, the year, or even the week doesn’t end with finals. I’ve got to keep moving things along for a few weeks after finals and in reality will be just as busy up until I start work on June 1. In essence, I’m running past the finals “Finish Line.”

In any event, I do have to get back to studying, so I’ll keep this post short.  I suspect this is going to be a pretty long night of studying, especially if I decide to head to a Cinco De Mayo get together later this afternoon, as I’m currently planning to do. Fortunately employment law is interesting.

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Wednesday, May 5th, 2010 Law School 4 Comments

Crunch Time: The Countdown To Final Exams Begins

It’s that time of the year again. Just like in the NBA playoffs where last second shots and game winners that leave you on the edge of your seats become all too common in the spring time, in law school last second epiphanies, and changes in study techniques that result in pulling all-night’ers become common as final exams approach. And while I’d obviously prefer watching game winning shots on TNT with championships on the line, instead, I’ll be joining the rest of the school in the library as finals week is approaching far too quickly.

It’s business as usual here at Northwestern Law School as we’re now in the last few weeks of the semester. 1LS are hiding away in their apartments or in corner library cubicles, 3Ls are finishing projects and papers in anticipation of graduation, and some of the first year JD-MBAs are deciding if they should take a break today to attend DAK’s final event in downtown Chicago. It’s a hard choice given our first final exam is in less than 48 hours.

Last semester I did a good job managing my time when it was crunch time. I read intensely. I wrote and edited multiple outlines. I pulled multiple all-nighters. And I marshalled the information in a way that was both effective and informative. I even used the book series named Crunch Time to help. But second semester is always a bit different.

This semester, I’ve personally spent more time on a variety of chores and activities and have spent more energy organizing more chaos around me. It’s been more of a balancing act. In some respects that’s because we all know what it feels like to take the exams and we’re more well-prepared than we were last semester. Nonetheless, now it’s crunch time, which means it’s time to stop balancing so much and time to continue to increase hours reading, studying, outlining, and then re-doing all of those things until we’re ready for the exam.  I hope that things will work out the same as they did last semester.

The good news, though, like I said is that we all know what to expect.  So people are less stressed, my classmates are going home a bit earlier, and as a result, everyone seems to be a bit happier, at least relative to last semester. I suspect that the three hour- exams will also feel like a piece of cake this go round, especially for those of us that took part in the seven hour marathon exam in our Criminal Law Final exam with Len Rubenowitz last semester.

In the end, the exams won’t catch us by surprise, that’s for sure. Whether everyone’s new strategies are effective or not, we’ll see.  For me, the question now is whether what I did before will work again. Stay tuned to find out!

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Saturday, April 24th, 2010 Law School No Comments

Being Strategic With My Time During Reading Week

I remember the busy days of working at a consulting firm.  While we did have some normal days, sometimes there was a real sense of urgency, a lot more beeps and buzzes from BlackBerrys in the offices, and often people ran around at a more frantic pace in, especially when the work involved our big clients.  I’ve notice how many people who are this busy often like tell themselves, no big deal, this is just for today, tomorrow things will be better.  But it’s funny how that pace often extends for days at a time. In fact for some it goes the full week, and for others, it becomes a lifestyle. Interestingly enough, something similar thing happens during your first year in law school.

Managing your time is very important both in business and in law school. In law school, we spent weeks upon weeks scrambling around trying to get through four or five classes. We read multiple textbooks, analyze hundreds of cases, we meet with study groups to try to figure out what’s going on, and we read supplemental materials to gain better understanding. During the semester everyone moves at their own pace and develops their own styles.  But then at the end, we have what’s called Reading Week, and during reading week, everyone really starts to picks up the pace.

Law schools tell us they have reading week so we can have time to study thoroughly for exams. And at one point in the semester, when you’re all caught up, you start to think the extra time should be plenty of time to master the material. But from my perspective that’s not entirely true because most people get behind, get involved in other activities, and sometimes just get a bit tired. And so in my experience, reading week is also a time to make up for all the reading you didn’t do, to catch up on outlining, and to catch up on administrative things you have to finish (i.e. I just did financial aid last week). And as such, it also becomes a time where some people constantly remind themselves of how much they need to study before our final exams.

A lot of people stress out about reading week, although this semester seems much more lax than last. I suspect that is both because people are too tired to be relaxed and because with one semester under our belts, people are relying a bit more heaviliy on their legal analysis and analytical skills rather than pure work ethic to do well.

Most of us have our first final exam on Monday, in Constitutional Law.  That should be the toughest one. Despite that, I’ve personally, I’ve still maintained a pretty balanced lifestyle though. Not only am I still writing posts on my website, but I’m also keeping active with other things.  This past weekend I went to a full day leadership seminar and networking event for Stanford alumni, called Leading Matters (Click here to see my recap of the event) Last night I went to a talk by renowned economist, and Nobel Prize winner, Amartya Sen, and it was well worth the time. Today, I’ll be having lunch with a JD-MBA admit, who also happens to be a Stanford grad, and I hopes to show her how great the JD-MBA program here is.  Tonight I’ll be headed out to Evanston for a kick-off event for Kellogg’s second Admit Weekend (DAK 2), which like last year, should be a lot of fun. And concurrently, I’m also gearing up for my role on the Executive Committee for BMA at Kellogg. Since most committee members are first year MBAs about to head into their second year, and not entering students, I have to play a little catch up before I can get started. And unfortunately, a lot of that happens now, in the final quarter at Kellogg, right in the middle of law school final exams.

So yes, I’m pretty busy, just like the old consulting days when we had to cater to a big client. Or perhaps a better analogy, just like the old consulting days when I was also applying to business and law schools, which was right in the middle of the economic recession, and where we had to bill every hour we could get.  And no matter how busy I am today, I’m not sure I’ll ever be that busy again. But I guess we’ll see soon enough. Either way, I’m off to go do some reading. After all it is reading week.

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Thursday, April 22nd, 2010 Law School No Comments

Leading Matters: Stanford University At The Forefront Of Change

As an anthropology major, I’ve read a lot of papers by the great anthropologist Margaret Mead. In one case she said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world.” Well, if this is true, than we certainly need more of these groups today. The current economic crisis is still on everyone’s mind, in addition to other issues like clean energy, new Supreme Court justices, and failing investment banks and law firms.  I’m not surprised that many of the law students and business students, not only at Northwestern but also across the nation, are feeling a little nervous in the midst of uncertainty. But in my opinion, times of uncertainty are good because they also create opportunity. And “we have to be willing to take chances, to push the boundaries, to work in collaborative new ways to try to make a difference in our world.” At least that’s what Stanford President John Hennesey told us at a leadership conference in Chicago this past weekend.

This past Saturday, I returned to Stanford to reconnect with hundreds of alumni and former classmates. No, not literally; it’s finals week here at Northwestern Law. Instead Stanford came here, to Chicago, as part of their Leading Matters tour to showcase how the school is playing a leading role in helping solve some of the world’s biggest problems. And the Cardinal crowd in Chicago was well represented—students and alumni from the GSB, alumni from the law school, and others from various departments and schools at Stanford–and there were over 500 alumni registered for the Chicago event.

Among others, Penny Pritzker, President Hennesey, and Helen and Peter Bing were there.  And for all my law school readers, I also had a chance to hear and meet Constitutional Law expert, former Stanford Law School Dean, and current litigator at Quinn Emmanuel, Kathleen Sullivan. I found her talk to be especially compelling, given my first final exam is in Constitutional Law and given that all 65 of the rest of my section mates were in their apartments or at the school studying while I was at the event downtown. (Click here for my follow up post on the Constitutional Law exam).

The entire crowd was engaged and ready for an inspiring afternoon. After almost every remark for the first five minutes, a series of claps, and “wows” would ripple through the audience from front to back, and sometimes back to front, often ending with those around me, an entire row of Stanford MBAs. In his welcoming address, Mr. Hennesey ended with the remark I mentioned above … that “This is a university willing to take chances, to push the boundaries, to work in collaborative new ways to try to make a difference in our world.”

In that moment, right at the outset, I re-connected with Stanford, which unfortunately has been a rare experience given I’ve spent the past four years in Boston, Phoenix, and Chicago. And for the day, I didn’t think much about my upcoming finals here at law school. Instead, I took the day to engage in the event, connect with old friends, conjure up old memories and traditions, think about the broader vision that Stanford had, and finally to do what I enjoy most, meet lots of new people.

I attended the first few sessions with GSB alum Marquis Parker (MBA & M.Ed, Class of 2006, and Stanford MBA blogger).  I also re-connected with fellow 05 Anthropology major, Andrea Lazazzera, who also happened to be the master-organizer of the Chicago event! I saw two of my good friends from my undergrad days, who I met during Stanford’s Engineering Academy. I had drinks with  a good buddy who also lives in Chicago but who I don’t see often because of law school.  And I even ran into a Stanford grad that graduated from Northwestern Law in 2009. It was great seeing everyone again.

But more than the great connections that I made at the event, the underlying purpose was to show that leadership matters and that Stanford is playing a leading role as the nation is facing real challenges ahead.  And “in a series of panels, speeches, and seminar sessions, President Hennessy, deans and faculty shared their bold visions for Stanford in the 21st century.” They discussed the current financial crisis, foreign policy issues, clean energy, Obama’s appointment for the Supreme Court, and how Stanford leaders were leading in all the fields.

“It was pretty impressive. The entire event blew me away. I was inspired,” one of the guests said to me as the day concluded.  Another alumni commented that “it was good to see everyone again in such an inspiring environment.” I agree with both of the comments. And what I found most interesting about the event was that topic of money or donations never came up, at least not to my knowledge. Instead, the focus of the event was on education and on leadership.

And in the end, I re-engaged with the idea that when we bring ourselves together around a common purpose and when we connect with others, with ideas, and with inspiring leaders, then we can effect change on a broader scale.  Not only because we have more hands to help and minds to come up with ideas but also because you can connect with the hearts of the people, and inspire them to do more than they could have ever imagined on their own.

And after being capped off by a 15-20 minute video during dinner, the event did just that.  The message was compelling and well worth the time, even in the middle of finals week. In fact, after the event, I’m now even considering heading to the one in Boston toward the end of the year (I spent a few years in Boston before Chicago) and maybe even to the one in the Bay next month, depending on how my summer work schedule plays out.  The event in San Francisco already has nearly 900 registered attendees, and could turn out to be a huge reunion-type event.

Either way, Bravo Stanford! And best of luck the remaining events!

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Monday, April 19th, 2010 Leadership 13 Comments

Almost Done With My First Semester

Just yesterday my section had our Civil Procedure final exam. This exam was definitely the one that everyone in the section, and perhaps everyone in the 1L class, has been dreading. The subject matter of civil procedure is incredibly dense, highly technical, and is taught at a really fast pace. Furthermore, given a lot of people here at Northwestern end up going into corporate law, rather than litigation, many of my classmates are just completely uninterested in the class. But the good news is that it was our third exam, so we were able to adjust our strategies after a bit of trial and error on the first two exams. And we also had more time to study for it. Reflecting back now, I’m pretty happy with how the exam went. I was pretty well-prepared overall, and took a slightly different approach to preparing than I did for my first two. For my other final exams, I was a bit less organized, didn’t leave much time to go back and make corrections in the final ten minutes before time was up, and spent a bit too much time reading the questions. But fortunately, I still felt OK about those exams too, so I can’t really say for sure that my new strategy was more effective.

More important than my effectiveness on those past exams, at least as of today, is the fact that I’m almost done with my first semester of law school, with one more exam to take on Thursday. After being in final mode for about two weeks now, I’m sitting here on the top floor of the library typing this entry excited for Thursday to finally come because it feels so close. But I suspect that the next day and a half is also going to feel very long give the pure amount of review I plan to do. A lot of my classmates are pretty open about being worn out from school now, and everyone’s looking forward to being done. It’s definitely been a test of endurance and focus. Personally, I’ve really enjoyed the process, because with all the studying finally comes a level of mastery of the material that most of us haven’t had all semester. In addition, I finally feel like I have a lot more familiarity with the legal way of thinking, which ultimately is why many of us are here in law school. It’s certainly why I did. I think as a first year law student, it’s definitely important to try to keep a bird’s eye view of things and keep the big picture in mind.

In addition to getting through this finals period, some people are also thinking about jobs for the summer. Just a few days ago, I went to a reception downtown to meet with ten or so employers, including one company I’ve been in contact with for a few months now. It was a good mix of employers and a good number of them were dedicated to the non-profit or government space. The host speaker was Rob Huberman, the CEO of Chicago Public Schools, who I got to chat with for a few minutes after he spoke. I also spent about an hour chatting with a venture capital firm that was at the event. The firm was pretty unique in that they actually invested most of their funds in the non-profit and education space, making them more of a hybrid venture capital and venture philanthropy firm. I also made sure to talk a bit with the Broad Foundation and Education Pioneers, who in my opinion are the two pioneering organizations in the Education sector today. If you don’t know anything about them, you should look both of them up when you get the chance.

Aside from that event, just this morning, I had quick call with the head of recruiting at BCG (Boston Consulting Group) and we chatted a bit about upcoming consulting events, about the logistics for recruiting with them as a JD-MBA, and about strategies for the case interview. I also traded a few emails today with a local Chicago law firm. It’s a firm that I’m really interested in working for. Interestingly enough, the firm’s head recruiter emailed me first just to check in, so it’s nice to know that I’m on their radar. I’m really hoping to make some traction with the firm over the next few weeks and will be interesting to see how everything plays out. But as important as all the job stuff is, what’s mostly on my mind now is my last final exam.

My last exam is for my Criminal Law class. I’ve enjoyed the class all semester long, and I really like Professor Rubenewitz. While the course is a pretty easy to discuss at a high level, the content gets a bit more technical and difficult as you start digging into the details, so I’ve still got a lot of studying to do. The good news and the bad news is that the exam is actually seven hours long. So on one hand, that means I’ll have plenty of time to figure out some of the details during the exam. But on the other hand, the more time I spend on those details during the exam, the less polished my final paper will be. Like everything else here, it’s a tradeoff everyone has to figure out so everyone’s level of preparation will probably be different. Either way, it’s all been a lot of fun, and I look forward to the seven hour challenge on Thursday morning, and to a really fun night out with my 1L class and with my JD-MBAs on Thursday night.

OK, time for me to hit the books again. I’ve got a lot of Criminal Law cases and rules to re-read. But keep an eye on my blog over the next couple of weeks. I plan to do a lot of general reflection and writing after exams are over.

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Wednesday, December 16th, 2009 Law School 1 Comment

Finals Week

At long last ….. finals week for my first semester of law school is finally under way, and the first exam day technically just kicked off yesterday. Law students all over Northwestern are immersed in their books and outlines, and everyone is looking for an edge to perform well, especially 1Ls. But this doesn’t come as a surprise. After all, law school has a reputation for being quite competitive, let alone this year when jobs are fewer, grades more important, and the market uncertain. What does come as a surprise however is that unlike me, most of the students here have ventured out of the library to do their studying at home or in coffee shops, free from interruption. So the campus seems a lot emptier than it did just a week ago.

For the most part, I’ve done a good job of staying out of the law school frenzy. I think many of the JD-MBAs are able to do that quite well, in fact most of them do it better than I do. But the last few days I’ve fed into the frenzy a lot more than usual. But can you blame me, its finals week. The days now are starting to feel like a blur, and I often miss how quickly the day goes by, as I’m reading, outlining, looking at practice tests, and having dialogues with classmates. I’ve certainly gotten into a routine the past two weeks, where it’d actually feel odd if I didn’t do any of these things.

But more interesting than the tangible things I’m doing to study is that I’ve learned some pretty interesting things going through the process. For one, I’ve definitely come to vastly appreciate what my law school professors do. Not only do they have to be familiar with all of the material they assign, but they also have such a high level mastery of it to field our questions, teach complicated subject in an understandable way, and to come up with on the spot examples and illustrations, which is pretty impressive given how hard the material actually is.

Its also been pretty interesting observing the habits of the students here at Northwestern. I’ve noticed that some of the students have gotten into pretty interesting routines to study more effectively. Many go into the same classrooms, meet with the same people to study, and sit at the exact same desk in the library every day. Other go to different places at different times and never study with the same people. Then there’s a third group of people who have just disappeared and probably won’t emerge from the apartments until the day of the exams, just to go back into hibernation again until the next exam. I’ve definitely not seen quite a few of my classmates for the week or so.

On the other hand, a number of my peers seem really calm and collected. One of my better friends in the JD-MBA program does that really well and he always gives me a hard time for studying as much now. I’m not sure how much the calmness correlates to everyone’s confidence or grasp of the material, perhaps it’s just their perspective, being used to pressure, or just a bit of ambivalence to law school. My hypothesis is that it’s probably different for everyone. While I certainly took notice of this earlier in the semester, it’s become a bit more clear the past few week that there is no typical law student here.

As for me, I tend to spend more of my time here at the school now. I generally like to mix up location when I can, and I have a nice circle of people I study with, although in general the law school process is not group-focused like at Kellogg. Rather, it’s a lot about self-teaching, reading, and writing, which can feel pretty isolating if you don’t make a point to take a break every now and then. Thankfully the people here at Northwestern are pretty collegial and the JD-MBAs here have a really good support system for each other.

It’s been a pretty interesting past few weeks, but the journey just begins today, as our first final looms less than 24 hours from now, and our last one comes ten days later, as a seven-hour marathon exam. While it may sound brutal, my opinion is that we’re are pretty fortunate to be at Northwestern, especially now. So no matter how things turn out, I plan to stay optimistic, enjoy the process, and hopefully write a post or two the next two weeks.

Good luck to all those with exams.

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Sunday, December 6th, 2009 Law School No Comments

Thanksgiving Weekend

Hey everyone, I hope you all were able to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday. Personally, I’ve always loved Thanksgiving weekend. Not only is it a great day to indulge a bit in some of your favorite dishes, drinks, and desserts, but more importantly it’s also an opportunity for many of us to see our families, friends, classmates, and significant others to reflect on the past year and spend a moment or two thinking about being thankful. For some of us students, it may seem like it’s a bit more difficult be thankful for with the current unemployment rates, deferrals being handed out by firms, and final exams lingering, but the mere fact that you’re sitting on a computer reading my page, aside from all the basic things like having a good meal, suggests that we have a lot to be thankful for. Definitely something to think about for students as grades and recruiting results play out over the next few weeks, for applicants as you start to hear back from graduate school programs that you’ve been dying to get into, and for everyone else as you’re trying survive these odd economic times.

While the Thanksgiving holiday brought a nice long weekend getaways for many folks out there, here in law school some (though not all) of my classmates decided to stay local, given that we’ll all be going home in just a couple of weeks after finals anyhow. Many of the folks here had small gatherings near campus. Some went out to the suburbs to visit friends from Chicago or to see family there. Other folks who typically don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, just had a normal day of relaxing and studying.

As for me, this year, I spent the weekend here in Chicago, given that finals begin fairly soon. My thought was that taking 3 or 4 days completely off would be a bit imprudent, especially considering that I don’t tend to get much done when I head home for holiday breaks, and that a good number of friends would be around in Chicago anyhow. So on my Thanksgiving, I actually did a lot of reading yesterday afternoon, had dinner with an old college buddy and his family just outside the city, and capped off the night by spending some quality time chatting with a friend afterward. I plan to use the rest of the weekend to do some reading, outlining, and studying.

It’s hard to believe but next week will be the last week of classes in my first semester of law school. It’s funny how fast it feels time is going by here. Most people here are ready for the semester to be over, but I suspect the next three weeks will feel really long, perhaps just as long as the first twelve weeks felt. In fact, I like to think of it like running a mile marathon. And just because you’ve run 23 of the 26 miles already, doesn’t mean you can just take off and sprint the last 3 miles. Even the fastest runner still has to pace himself and manage his energy, so that he can finish as strong as possible. But either way, should be a pretty interesting process to through my first law school exam period, and probably a lot of fun that night once we all finish. But for now, time to get back to the books.

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Friday, November 27th, 2009 Uncategorized No Comments

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Jeremy C Wilson is a JD-MBA alumni using his site to share information on education, the social enterprise revolution, entrepreneurship, and doing things differently. Feel free to send along questions or comments as you read.


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